Welcome, kids, to the final season of “American Idol,” or at least the final season of “American Idol” as we know it, the final season of “American Idol with Simon Cowell.”
Or maybe Tuesday (Jan. 12) night’s “American Idol” is like a series premiere, or at least the series premiere of “American Idol without Paula Abdul.” Yeah, that’s probably the spin FOX would prefer. Tuesday night marked the beginning of a new era and, after a full day of ABC news and Conan O’Brien updates, I’m going to blog the “Idol” premiere in minute-by-minute format, because otherwise, I’ll be up all night recapping this. And as you already know, if you know me, I’m not a big fan of recapping audition episodes anyway. There isn’t enough structure. A live-blog counts as structure.
So let’s get going…
8:00 p.m. Ah, May 20, 2009. The Boy Next Door beat The Glam Rocker, if you’ll recall. The pre-credit sequence also acknowledges the departure of Paula Abdul and the arrival of Ellen DeGeneres. “It’s a new beginning,” Ryan Seacrest says. “Simon Cowell leads the search once more.” Not “Simon Cowell leads the search for the last time”? Too soon?
8:02 p.m. People will be awesome. People will suck. And the contestants will come from all walks of life. And wait… Triplets?
8:03 p.m. Boston gets first dibs on this season’s audition race. But what did Boston do to deserve two hours of audition footage? Rain, apparently. And lots of Red Sox hats. Go Sox!
8:04 p.m. 9,000 people came out for Boston auditions. Is that a lot? That doesn’t sound like a lot at all. Also, they were totally in Foxboro. Fraud! Fraud!
8:05 p.m. Victoria Beckham, or possibly her wax mannequin replica, is the season’s first guest judge. She’s allegedly a singer, so I’m sure she’ll be substantive. Who is the season’s first contestant?
8:06 p.m. That would be Janet McNamara, who’s only been singing seriously for two years. She’s actually only there as a commercial for the “American Idol” karaoke game. Really? The first auditioner of the entire series is there for a product plug? She’s clearly a joke, but I like Janet, because she reminds me of “The Bare Midriff” episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and I’m confident that if I’m ever falling off a rooftop, she’ll be there for me. After Janet tells the judges that they love her in the game, she launches into “Pocket Full of Sunshine.” Shockingly, she’s not good. “Does this window open?” Simon asks, when she finishes. The problem, it seems, is that Paula particularly liked her in the game and Paula is sadly absent today. She describes the experience as “wicked awesome” and exits swearing. Thanks, Boston! Janet and Ryan share a bouncer hug and the episode is off to a great start.
8:12 p.m. Poor Luke Wilson.
8:14 p.m. The rain is clearing up. Can 16-year-old Maddy Curtis, the ninth of 12 kids, provide the night’s first winner? Maddy’s got a big family and four brothers with Down Syndrome, so we probably aren’t going to mock her. She is, after all, an inspiration. “They see the world in colors and we need to see the world that way,” Maddy says, crying. Like I said, we aren’t going to be making fun of Maddy, who has been watching the show since she was eight. Yikes. She’s singing “Halleluyah.” Although she says it’s her own arrangement, it’s pretty much the Jeff Buckley version, really. The judges must have seen her clip package, because they’re impressed beyond the true measure of the vocal performance, which is solid, but mannered. Randy, looking extra-slim this season, is especially impressed. Kara raves about her “old soul” and calls Maddy “authentic,” whatever that means. She’s going to Hollywood, duh. She’s greeted by one of her brothers, with balloon animals. Maddy is immune to mockery.
8:19 p.m. Kara likes Posh Spice’s energy. But there’s gloominess in the waiting room, from some Clark Kent looking brooder.
8:20 p.m. But Clark Kent Guy isn’t our next contestant. Instead, we’re saluting 17-year-old goofball Pat Ford from New Hampshire. He likes saying “Holla” and spinning in circles. I somehow suspect he’s going to stink.
8:21 p.m. Pat Ford’s version of “Womanizer” is mighty bad, but Kara is at least amused. “I think I did awesome,” Pat says, before raving that Simon is even sassier in person than on TV. Pat has a lot of friends in school. He does not, however, have a ticket to Hollywood, as Randy instructs him to stop singing forever, but volunteers to hang out with him. Pat gets a hug from Kara, which he probably doesn’t properly appreciate.
8:22 p.m. The ladies were good in Boston, we’re told. As evidence, we hear scatting Jennifer Hirsch, smoking hot Simon favorite Claire Fuller and geek chic Jess Wolfe, Three tickets to Hollywood. I believe we’ll be seeing more of Claire Fuller. She feels like somebody’s we’ll be able to eliminate at the beginning of the Top 24.
8:25 p.m. I don’t need to see “The Tooth Fairy” to say it’s The Worst Movie of 2010.
8:28 p.m. Although he comes across as a comical ethnic stereotype, 28-year-old Amadeo Diricco has very nice, shiny, curly hair. He also looks like he’s trying out for an Olive Garden commercial, going into a whole thing about his wacky Italian family and how when you’re with them, you’re family. He announces he’s singing Muddy Waters and he’s set for embarrassment. Until he’s actually press good. It’s 100 percent affectation, but he’s like an Italian Taylor Hicks, which needn’t be a bad thing. Kara is so impressed that she practically starts speaking with an accent out of kinship. Simon raves about his likability. Amadeo gets four years and rushes out for a group hug with his equally beefy brothers. If “Idol” doesn’t work out, he can always head down to join the cast of “Jersey Shore.” Sports fans will know what I’m saying when I compare Amadeo to Petros Patadakis, which means he’s going to be a bit of an acquired taste.
8:33 p.m. On to Derek Hilton, who refers to finding his spirituality when he was at his “lowest peak in life” and started “gragitating” toward music. Derek looks forward to “touching numerous amounts of people” with his music. He has feathered hair and erupting skin and he sings an Elton John song out of his nose and out of the top of his head. Yes. Very funny. The judges don’t even recommend Noxema. They just mock his split personality and Simon calls it “complete and utter rubbish,” adding “It’s like there were 20 of you in there and ever one of them’s horrible.” Derek is confused. He’s sure he hit “really loud notes.” He’s disappointed he doesn’t get to touch us in a different way.
8:36 p.m. A montage of sad Bostonians. You’d think the Yankees just swept the Sox they’re so miserable.
8:37 p.m. Gratuitous Bikini Girl footage!
8:42 p.m. Meet Mere Doyle, an anime freak with a cape, kimonos and martial arts fighting style. Her dream is to become a successful singer in Japan. She’s been to hundreds of auditions. Yes. I’m sure she’s going to be terrific. She’s yelling Janis Joplin and Kara and Posh are visibly traumatized. “At least one of us had a good time,” Simon says, as Mere pumps the air in celebration. Mere doesn’t understand how Simon can call her “terrible.” Everybody tells her she’s awesome, both of her voice coaches. This is what she loves! Simon notes, “I would love to fly to the moon, but I can’t.” Mere is sad, but Simon promises this is good advice she’s being given. “We’ll see,” Mere threatens.
8:46 p.m. So much crying. Mere’s sad. “How dare you!” she yells at the camera.
8:47 p.m. Luke Shaffer has a silly knit cap and a scruffy beard, but his voice solid. I’m not a fan of finger-snapping Benjamin Bright, who refuses to stay on a note for a single second. But both of them are off to Hollywood. They’re happy, as is Ford.
8:48 p.m. Pouty Clark Kent is so clearly an actor or comedian. And he isn’t playing the role very well. His real name is Andrew Fenlon and he’s described as a local musician. He gives sarcastic, but not really funny answers, to a few questions. He’s singing “House of the Rising Sun.” He has an interesting voice, or an interesting tone to his voice. Kara wants to know why Andrew is so angry and she doesn’t get why waiting annoys Andrew so much. She’s sure he has a bad attitude, prompting eye-rolling. “I am now angry at you, who I don’t like at all,” Kara announces. What Andrew things is “confidence,” they interpret as “arrogant.” Simon says he’d have voted yes, but the other three go no. “Simon, you have an attitude, but you’re charming,” Kara tells him, before letting Andrew know that he needs a spanking. I’d love to see Simon suggest giving a girl a spanking, but I guess saying random and inappropriate things is a Kara trademark.
8:57 p.m. It’s time to blame some bad performances on the local music and theater programs. Billy Bloom and Michael Ryan turn in theatrically bad. But out of Berklee College of Music comes Ashley Rodriguez, who’s like a grown-up version of Jordin Sparks. She sings Alicia Keys and although she’s a tiny bit shout-y, she’s the best performer of the first hour by a wide, wide, wide margin. She the first real pro we’ve seen tonight, which probably means that she had a contract with Arista at some point.
9:01 p.m. Tyler Grady, sporting a pair of broken wrists (from falling out of a tree) and a background as a drummer, is ready to have his career jump-started. He looks like a refugee from the ’70s and he sings “Let’s Get It On” with a decent amount of confidence. And yes, Kara and Posh both adore him. Posh loves the whole package and Kara’s over-the-moon. The male judges realize they’re irrelevant, though Simon praises him as memorable.
9:03 p.m. Lots of people got tickets to Hollywood, but weren’t worthy of screentime.
9:09 p.m. It’s Day Two in Boston and we begin with an inane clip package joking about the history of Boston, with animated colonialists who look amusingly like our “American Idol” judges.
9:10 p.m. Lisa Olivero is from Billerica, Mass. and she sounds like it. She’s a pretty girl, but she also looks like she can throw down. She announces up-front that she’s a diva, announcing she’s better than most of the people on the show. Guess what? She isn’t. She is, however, rather loud on a grating, consistently flat version of “Vision of Love.” A lot of effort has been put into styling Kara this year. She looks terrific, no longer needing to be in the background behind Paula. Anyway, Lisa gets sent back to Billerica, exiting in slow-motion.
9:13 p.m. Time to make fun of the way people in Boston talk. And behave.
9:15 p.m. There’s a tradition of “American Idol” contestants with neck-beards. Enter Mike Davis, who works on a party boat named Codzilla. His version of “Yesterday” isn’t all that great, but Kara and Posh are apparently fans of the neck beard. The editor doesn’t even bother cutting to the male judges. Kara wants to hang out with Mike. Simon gives up, votes “Yes” and walks out. Randy gives up, votes “No” and walks out. Left to their own devices, the ladies let Mike through.
9:22 p.m. Katie Stevens is 16 and she grew up in a big Portuguese family. She loves her grandmother and speaks Portuguese with her. Grandma also has Alzheimer’s. Yes, Katie is like Maddy and Amadeo combined into a single package and she cries at the end of her clips. Of course she’s going to be awesome, singing “At Last.” There’s much too much effort to what she’s doing, but you can tell she’s got chops. The judges put her through without much hesitation. Her huge Portuguese family is overjoyed and they call Grandma. Oh, the tugging at my heart.
9:26 p.m. Joshua Blaylock is 28, which makes this his last shot. He’s a nasally boy-band-singer with questionable pitch and much too much product in his hair. Simon tells him his voice would be great if he was 14. They ask Joshua to be assertive. So he yells, “Simon, shut up, please!” Randy says he’d be great in a new group singing Spandau Ballet music. This is a cruel exercise, as they coach him to be more assertive. The two ladies vote “Yes” and Simon and Randy back down. Joshua is not very good and this is a wasted Golden Ticket.
9:34 p.m. Behind-the-scenes blah blah blah. Sometimes contestants forget the lyrics.
9:36 p.m. The cowboy can’t sing. The nerdy Asian guy can’t sing. But at least they’re good sports.
9:36 p.m. Justin Williams had cancer, but now he’s pretty, has whitened teeth and too much product in his hair. He’s cancer-free and making it through to Hollywood would prove that he didn’t give up. He’s a vocal coach by profession and while he’s probably more Broadway than pop, he’s a decent enough crooner. Nobody’s enthusiastic about him, but they’re all in his favor and he’s off to Hollywood. There’s an agreement that the girls are going to like him.
9:43 p.m. What will Posh Spice’s legacy as a guest judge be? Her ability to see the girl in everyone, even Norberto Guerrero, who may be one of the odder looking contestants I’ve ever seen. If this were 1986, he’d have some great hair. At no time would he have a good voice. He forgets his lyrics and Posh Spice tries to encourage him. Simon’s having no part of the coddling, saying “You sing like a three-year-old girl, dress like LaToya Jackson, you’ve got a beard, the whole thing was just too weird.”
9:46 p.m. Tuesday’s “American Idol” premiere is all about large ethnic families. Meet Bosa Mora, whose parents come from Nigeria, and his seven siblings. His mother has a spectacular hat, but does Bosa have a spectacular voice? It’ll sure do. This is a guy who I find genuinely likable, so naturally Simon calls him “boring.” Posh didn’t find him boring, causing Simon to roll his eyes, setting off a fight. Simon votes “No,” the ladies vote “Yes” and Randy sends Bosa through to Hollywood. Good for all of this week’s Big Ethnic Families.
9:49 p.m. We’re playing Rusted Root’s “Send Me On My Way”? Wow. How retro.
9:54 p.m. Who will the night’s last singer be? Leah Laurenti, from Long Island. She comes from a protective family. Church was her whole life, so she never listened to secular music. Her goal is to be a singer and this dream makes her cry. She does a strong rendition of “Blue Birds.” If somebody did something with her fashion sense, she could be worthy. The judges are surprised and pleased. Kara reassures her that she really is good. Off to Hollywood for Leah.
9:57 p.m. 32 singers were put through from Boston. But who seemed really good? Claire Fuller, Ashley Rodriguez, Tyler Grady and Leah Laurenti are the singers most likely to be heard from again. Maybe. I wasn’t blown away, but it’s only Night 1. Only 1000 more nights until we crown our ninth “American Idol” winner and I look forward to sharing all 1001 with y’all.
What’d you think of “American Idol 9” Night One? Any early favorites?